The Todd Pletcher-trained Purge makes his first start at Oaklawn Park since his fifth-place finish in last spring's Arkansas Derby (gr. II) when he faces nine rivals in the $125,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) Sunday.
Purge, a 4-year-old son of Pulpit
, is trying to turn around a three-race losing streak since he captured the Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga August 8, the highlight of his 3-year-old campaign.
He chased Smarty Jones in both the Rebel and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn last season. He finished second as the favorite in the Rebel before his fifth-place effort on a muddy track in the Arkansas Derby.
Following his victory in the Jim Dandy, Purge finished fourth behind Birdstone in the Travers (gr. I) and was a distant sixth behind Lion Tamer, Badge of Silver and Pico Central in the Cigar Mile (gr. I). In his only start this year, the bay colt ran a disappointing sixth again, 9 1/2 lengths behind the winning Badge of Silver, in Gulfstream Park's Hal's Hope (gr. III) Jan. 8.
Purge is to carry high weight of 116 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile Razorback and has a new rider in Robby Albarado. John Velazquez had been aboard Purge in all 10 of his previous starts, four of them victories. Starlight Stables LLC, Paul Saylor and Johns Martin own Purge, who has earned $589,734 in his career.
Added Edge, who closed nicely in the Hal's Hope to finish fourth, returns for trainer Dale Romans. Added Edge, who won last year's Schaefer Mile and Woodbine's Nashua (Can-II) at 2, carries one pound less than Purge and will be ridden by Luis Quinonez.
Also in the field is the Steven Flint trainee, Gigawatt, front-running winner of the Louisiana Handicap Dec. 31 at Fair Grounds who was off the board in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) on the same track Feb. 12.
The first four finishers in the Essex Handicap (gr. III) -- Absent Friend, Mauk Four, Separato and River Mountain Rd. -- all are expected back for the Razorback. $125,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III), 4 & up, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer
1. Mauk Four, 112, Jeffery Burningham, Jerry Cart
2. The Lady's Groom, 114, Calvin Borel, Michael Gorham
3. Gigawatt, 114, Brian Hernandez, Jr., Steven Flint
4. Added Edge, 115, Luis Quinonez, Dale Romans
5. Clays Awesome, 112, Timothy Doocy, Timothy Hooper
6. Purge, 116, Robby Albarado, Todd Pletcher
7. Intelligent Male, 113, Jamie Theriot, Cole Norman
8. Absent Friend, 115, Roman Chapa, Cole Norman
9. River Mountain Rd, 111, John McKee, Robert Holthus
10. Separato, 112, Jeremy Rose, Timothy Ritchey